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Josef Fritzl Gets Life Sentence

Posted by shadmia on March 20, 2009

Fritzl with Eyes ClosedFritzl EyesEyes Up

“I regret from the bottom of my heart what I have done to my family. Unfortunately, I cannot make amends for it. I can only try to look for possibilities to try to limit the damage that’s been done.”

Those were the last words spoken by Josef Fritzl before the court at St Pölten passed judgment on him. They found him guilty on all 6 counts: rape, deprivation of liberty, incest, coercion, slavery and murder. His punishment: Life imprisonment.

Court representatives said Fritzl appeared ‘composed‘ as his sentence was read out. He immediately accepted the sentence, as did the prosecution, meaning that it is legally binding and ruling out any right of appeal.

Fritzl’s defense lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, confirmed that Elisabeth had been present for part of the trial.

‘This is what triggered the agitation that led him to confess,’ Mayer told German N-TV news channel, referring to his client’s surprising change of heart.

Catch the story from the beginning in this 5-part video called The Josef Fritzl Story and read about developments in the case since being arrested and imprisoned on The Josef Fritzl Page.

The life sentence would entail a minimum of 15 years in prison, according to Franz Cutka, vice president of St Pölten courts. The 11 months he has already spent incarcerated would count towards that sentence. On the advice of Adelheid Kastner, the forensic psychiatrist who spent 25 hours evaluating Fritzl’s mental health, he will first be sent to the Mittersteig prison in Vienna for an evaluation. Afterward, Fritzl may then be transferred to another prison or psychiatric institution. Kastner told the jury that locking him up without therapy and treatment could be dangerous, and that there was a real risk he would try to take his own life. She also said that Fritzl had a serious personality disorder and would pose a threat to others if freed. He remains under a suicide watch.

“He has the right to voice an opinion on where he should be sent, but this wish has to tally with any expert opinion and with the directorate of the prison,” said Huber-Günsthofer the deputy director of St Pölten prison, where Fritzl has been held since his arrest last April.

There was never really any doubt of Fritzl’s guilt, even his lawyer, Rudolf  Mayer, admitted that Fritzl had raped his daughter 3,000 times, but his fate was sealed when Fritzl changed his plea to guilty on all counts, including the “murder by neglect” of his infant son, Michael. This was the most serious charge against him and it was this charge that earned him the life sentence.

“The life sentence was a consequence of his confession,” Mayer told reporters after the jury’s decision. “After confessing to 3,000 instances of rapes, 24 years of captivity in a cellar, plus murder, it’s obvious that such a sentence will be handed down.”

At a news conference after the verdict, court officials said Elisabeth could bring a separate civil case against Fritzl to seek damages for her suffering, adding there was no limit to what she could request. They said the Austrian government would join in on bankruptcy proceedings that Fritzl recently initiated, and said the process could involve selling his seven real estate holdings — including the house in Amstetten where he held his daughter. They also said Fritzl would have to secure permission from Austria’s Justice Ministry if he wanted to write and sell his memoirs.

Amstetten’s mayor verbalized the unspoken thoughts of the people of his town – and perhaps for most Austrians – who for almost a year came under the intense attention of the entire world when he said:

‘A dark chapter in the history of our town is now closed,’ said Amstetten Mayor Herbert Katzengruber after the guilty verdict was announced. ‘We all hoped it would turn out this way.’

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The Josef Fritzl Trial – Day 3 – Guilty!

Posted by shadmia on March 19, 2009

Rudolf MayerFritzl at CourtJudge Andrea Humer

“I recognize that I am guilty of all the charges presented,” he said. “I regret what I’ve done.” With those words, Josef Fritzl ended any further reason to continue with his trial. He uttered those words in front of  judge Andrea Humer at the beginning of the third day of his trial. Catch the story from the beginning in this 5-part video called The Josef Fritzl Story and read about developments in the case since being arrested and imprisoned on The Josef Fritzl Page.

Asked what had made him change his mind so suddenly, and prompted him to admit to the charges of murder and slavery that he had previously rejected, Fritzl said: “Because of the video testimony of my daughter.”

Under questioning by judge Andrea Humer with regards to the murder charge, Fritzl admitted that he was present when the twins were born and confessed he knew Michael had breathing problems. Baby Michael lived for 66 hours and Judge Humer told Fritzl that was more than enough time to see there was a severe health problem and seek medical help.

“I don’t know why I did not help. I was hoping he would get through it,” Fritzl told the hushed courtroom at Sankt Poelten, Austria. “I should have done something. I simply failed to do so. I was of the opinion the little one would survive.”

Before pleading guilty to all six charges against him: rape, deprivation of liberty, incest, coercion, slavery and murder Josef Fritzl did not even bother to inform his lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, but he did request to see a psychiatrist after leaving court the evening before.

“He asked to see a psychiatrist afterwards, so crushed was he. The testimony which he saw for the first time had a profoundly devastating effect on him and led to the change of direction in this trial.”

Rudolf Mayer’s client had not informed him in advance of his decision to plead guilty, he said:

“I was indeed surprised, not least because someone with such a personality disorder as he has – which involves keeping up appearances and giving the impression that he’s the one with the power – finds it difficult to drop his trousers in front of the world.”

Until his confession, Fritzl had stubbornly refused to admit that he had caused Elisabeth much suffering, arguing instead that he had saved her from a life of ruin and debauchery when he lured her into the cellar at the age of 18.

Fritzl will face a sentence of between 20 years and life imprisonment. But it is possible that his confession will lead to a reduced sentence. “It all depends on whether the jury and the judges take the confession to be a mitigating circumstance,” said the vice-president of the court, Franz Cutka. The verdict and sentencing are expected in tomorrow’s session.

Fritzl is on a suicide watch, meaning at the end of each day’s court sessions guards remove his tie and belt to ensure he cannot use them to harm himself. There were unconfirmed reports that Elisabeth was in court and that Fritzl made eye contact with her the day before he changed his plea. The pair had not met since Fritzl’s reign of terror was exposed and he was arrested last April at his home in Amstetten.

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The Josef Fritzl Trial – Day Two

Posted by shadmia on March 18, 2009

Fritzl's FaceFritzl at CourtFritzl and the Police

Josef Fritzl’s trial is in its second day. On the first day he pleaded guilty to: Incest, Coercion, Rape and Deprivation of liberty. He pleaded not guilty to: Murder and Enslavement. See The Josef Fritzl Trial – Day One for all the details. Catch the story from the beginning in this 5-part video called The Josef Fritzl Story and read about developments in the case since being arrested and imprisoned on The Josef Fritzl Page.

The second day of the trial that has been dubbed Austria’s Trial of the Century began about 9:00 am with Josef Fritzl once again entering court holding a blue folder in front of his face, and holding it up for 10 minutes until cameramen were ordered to leave the courtroom. This time however a photographer was able to take some still pictures of him during his appearance.

This day was not about Josef Fritzl; it was about Elisabeth. It was about how she suffered at the hands of the man who held her captive for 24 years during which she bore him 7 children. It was the day that Josef Fritzl came face to face with the crimes he had committed. It was the day that Elisabeth Fritzl became an avenging angel. During 11 hours of recorded testimony she told the court and the world who her father really was – a rapist, a murderer and a monster who allowed one of their children, Michael, to die without trying to help.

For a man who had been accustomed to being in control, it was his day of reckoning. Fritzl watched the tape, that could very well send him to prison for life, with full attention. As Elisabeth recounted her litany of humiliations, the tape was stopped and Fritzl was cross-questioned. The main aim of the proceedings was to address the most serious charge against Fritzl, that of murdering one of the seven babies fathered in the mouldy fetid cellar of his sprawling house in Amstetten.

Michael, the first born twin, was in trouble. “The accused could see that Michael’s situation was getting worse,” says the charge sheet, “Fritzl was fully aware of this. Instead of calling for emergency medical care for the newborn and securing help for the baby, Fritzl simply told Elisabeth ‘what will be, will be'”.

The baby died two days later. Fritzl is said to have burned the body in a stove in the cellar. Fritzl denies being in the cellar at the time of death, and considers himself not guilty of “murder by neglect”. Elisabeth’s version — which forms the basis of the indictment — was clearly essential.

Fritzl Hides FaceCourtElisabeth Fritzl

The taped testimonial provided the basic material for the indictment which describes a history of sexual abuse from the age of 11. Elisabeth recorded her testimony last summer, three months after her release from the cellar of the family home. The memories of her ordeal were still fresh and state prosecutor, Christiane Burkheiser, remembers the occasion — the taping was held over several days, in the presence of psychiatrists and Fritzl’s defense lawyer Rudolf Mayer — as being particularly grueling.

“This was much more emotionally difficult than questioning Mr Fritzl,” said the 33-year-old state prosecutor in an interview.

The taped testimony had been introduced to spare Elisabeth the need to be in the same room as her father, she vows that she never wants to see him again. She tells how she had to give in to her father’s daily demands for violent sex because she knew he had the power of life and death over her. She described how her father not only raped her thousands of times but humiliated her by forcing her to re-enact scenes from pornographic films he made her watch.

The sexual abuse often took place in front of the three children who grew up in the cellar. She described how Fritzl would bring boxes of pornographic videos into the cellar, where he had set up a TV and video recorder, then order his daughter to re-enact scenes with him. Elisabeth gave her evidence looking straight into a camera with no-one else in the room, while lawyers asked her questions from neighboring rooms.

In addition to her testimony, another recording was made by her brother, Harald, in whom she was said to confide. His testimony was also played for the court. He was the only other family member who was willing to testify against Fritzl. The jury also listened to a statement from a neonatal specialist who testified on whether Michael’s death was preventable.

Josef Fritzl has been put on a suicide watch. He is being accompanied by a doctor to whom he had access during breaks in the trial, part of routine psychological and “suicide prevention measures“, said Erich Huber-Guensthofer, deputy director of Sankt Poelten prison, where the defendant is being held. The prosecution has requested that Fritzl be placed in a psychiatric institution after the trial.

Prior to these alleged crimes, Fritzl had been arrested three times in connection with sex offenses — he was never charged in the cases of attempted rape and public exposure, but he served a sentence for a rape conviction in the late 1960s. As well as the possible life sentence for murder, Fritzl faces 20 years behind bars if found guilty of enslavement, up to 15 for a rape conviction, and one year for an incest conviction. The trial continues tomorrow.

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The Josef Fritzl Trial – Day One

Posted by shadmia on March 17, 2009

Fritzl HidesFritzl in CourtFritzl and Binder

The trial of Josef Fritzl, 73, – who for 24 years incarcerated and raped his own daughter who bore him 7 children, 6 of whom survived – has begun. Catch the story from the beginning in this 5-part video called The Josef Fritzl Story and read about developments in the case since being arrested and imprisoned on The Josef Fritzl Page.

On the first day of the trial news organizations from around the world descended on the Austrian town of St. Poelten to witness what some have called Austria’s trial of the century. Cameras were only allowed in the courtroom for the beginning of the proceedings.

Josef Fritzl is charged with 6 crimes: rape, deprivation of liberty, incest, coercion, slavery and murder. In court he pleaded guilty to 4 of those charges and not guilty on the other two:

MurderNot Guilty
EnslavementNot Guilty
Deprivation of libertyGuilty
RapePartially Guilty

On the rape charge he entered a plea of partially guilty, which is permissible. Fritzl could plead guilty to the rape charge in general but dispute the prosecution’s claims as to the degree of violence he used. Austrian law differentiates between the severity of rapes and levels of coercion, and takes into account the degree of violence used and the consequences for the victim. His lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, is expected to clarify Fritzl’s plea on this charge.

CourtFritzlFritzl House

The trial began with the prosecution pressing for life imprisonment in an institution for the criminally insane. Chief prosecutor Christiane Burkhauser described Fritzl’s crimes as inconceivable.  He “showed no sign of regret or any consciousness of wrongdoing,” she said.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser described how, on 29 August 1984, Fritzl sedated his then 18-year-old daughter by putting a cloth over her nose and mouth and dragged her into the cellar. He then secured a chain around her stomach so she had no chance to escape. The next day he raped her. As she bore his children over the next 24 years, he repeatedly raped her in front of them, the court heard. She went towards the eight jurors with a box of musty objects and scraps of cloth, from the cellar where Elisabeth and her children had lived to give them an idea of the conditions in which they were locked up. “Smell these things,” she urged the jury, who flinched back in their seats.

“It was his playground. He used her like a toy,” said Burkheiser.

She told the jury to imagine living underground in a damp space just 11 metres square (118 sq ft) – the same size as the jury bench – kitted out with just “a wash basin, a sleeping corner, no warm water, no shower, no heating, and worst of all, no daylight” she said, adding it was also “incredibly humid” and the air was moldy and stale.

They had to crawl on their knees in order to get around the dungeon,” she told the court. “It was damp and mouldy. The dampness crept into their backs and into their bones.” Only after nine years was the cellar expanded.

At other times, she said, Fritzl punished his daughter by shutting off the electricity _ plunging the dungeon cell into darkness for days at a time. “Josef Fritzl used his daughter like his property,” Burkheiser said.

Christiane Burkheiser, who is 32 and conducting her first major case since being made chief prosecutor, said that he had treated his daughter as a toy – an allegation linked to the enslavement charge, which Fritzl denies.

The defense lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, appealed to the jury to be objective and not be swayed by emotions. He insisted Fritzl was “not a monster“. Before the trial got under way, Mayer said his client was nervous. “He told me, ‘I’m scared, Mr Mayer’.”

Addressing the jury, Mayer said: “You need to keep emotions out of this. Even with someone like him who has been described as a monster, it’s irrelevant if he is an unsympathetic character or a monster.”

Mayer described how Fritzl had managed to care for “two families” – “you cannot call someone who does that a monster”. He added: “If you only want your daughter for sex you don’t want children. You would let them starve.

As if to try to explain his actions Fritzl told the court that he had had a very difficult childhood. He told the three judges and eight jurors that, at the age of 12, he had made it clear to his own mother that he would not tolerate being beaten any longer and would defend himself.

“From that point on, I was Satan personified for her,” he said. She never showed him any affection and his father appeared only “rarely and sporadically”, he said.

Josef FritzlElisabeth FritzlFritzl Hides

In the afternoon session the court was said to have begun watching an 11-hour video testimony in which Elisabeth recounted her ordeal. The video was stopped at points for Fritzl to respond, said Franz Cutka, a court spokesman. The court will continue to watch it tomorrow.

Four expert witnesses are ready to give evidence if necessary: a doctor who specializes in newborns, a psychiatrist, an electrical engineer and a surveyor who inspected the dungeon.

Neither Fritzl’s wife, Rosemarie, nor any of his other children will give evidence at the trial because they have refused to do so.

Central to the trial is the ­accusation that Fritzl murdered, through neglect, a baby twin called Michael born to his daughter in the cellar in 1996. The boy had breathing difficulties and died when he was three days old. Prosecutors will argue that Fritzl could have saved his life if he had got medical help. Instead the baby died in his mother’s arms and Fritzl disposed of the corpse in an incinerator in his back yard.

If convicted of murder Fritzl faces life imprisonment. If not, the maximum sentence he could expect to receive would be 15 years. According to legal experts he could potentially be out of prison in six and a half years, having already served a year in prison.

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The Fritzl Drama Continues

Posted by shadmia on January 30, 2009

Elisabeth Fritzl 15-years-oldJosef Fritzl and WifeJosef Fritzl

Josef Fritzl, 74, is in jail. He belongs there. He is the monster that kidnapped his own daughter, Elisabeth, imprisoned her for 24 years and raped her continuously resulting in 7 children — six of whom are still alive. The five part video documentary –  “The Josef Fritzl Story” – shines a light on the dark side of human nature and gives us a peek into the world of a truly evil person. For more about Josef Fritzl and family find all the posts here: The Josef Fritzl Page.

His trial date has been set for March 16, 2009 in St. Poelten, Austria where he is currently being held in jail. According to Franz Cutka, deputy head of Sankt Poelten criminal court, the initial proceedings will be open to the public and media but later access will depend on further developments in the case, he added. Fritzl has been charged with murder, rape, sequestration, incest, grievous assault and slavery. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Previous problems in getting a jury together seem to have been overcome. According to Austrian law, the jury consists of eight members, with two substitutes. Thirty police officers and prison warders will be on duty to keep order in what is regarded as the most shocking crime in modern Austrian history. Over 250 media representatives have requested permission to attend the trial.

Meanwhile, Josef Fritzl has been making some news for himself. He has announced that he has converted to Buddhism. According to reports he spends most of the 23 hours a day in his cell studying the peaceful Far Eastern philosophy.

Speaking through his lawyer Rudolf Mayer, Fritzl said that he has found a lot of comfort in reading Buddhist literature and finds the religion “fascinating”. Fritzl first discovered Buddhism on a family holiday in Thailand but has only started studying the religion in depth while behind bars.

He hopes to be reincarnated as a decent person in his next life if he can help stop other weirdos copying his crimes. As if to reinforce that notion, Fritzl has invited criminal psychologists to study his warped mind. He wants experts to quiz him to work out the root of his evil. Fritzl told his lawyer: “They should look at what makes me tick and learn from it to stop anything like this happening again. “

Fritzl said: “I realize now that I am not normal, and I see that somebody who did what I did cannot be regarded as normal.  With the help of therapists I want to know what the real reasons are for why I behaved like I did and I want to get treatment, I want to be healthy again at some point.”

‘I am aware I will spend a very long time in prison. I would like to be examined by as many profilers, psychologists and psychiatrists as possible, preferably the most renowned in the world. They should look into the deepest depths of my soul and learn from it for future cases.’

Professor Reinhardt Haller, an Austrian forensic psychiatrist mentioned by Fritzl, said:

‘It would be in the service of science to examine this unique case as thoroughly as possible. From the point of view of both medicine and criminology his personality is most certainly worth examining.’

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Posted in Incest, news, Our World, Rape, Scandals, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, world | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Elisabeth Fritzl Begins Testimony

Posted by shadmia on July 14, 2008

Elisabeth Fritzl, 42, who was imprisoned for 24 years by her father, Josef Fritzl, and bore him 7 children; has been given medical clearance to begin testifying about her ordeal. She has already begun to answer questions and will continue to do so in the coming week. Elisabeth has said that she never wants to see her father ever again…..not even at trial. So in order to accommodate her wishes, all of her testimony is being videotaped so that she will not be forced to confront him in court.

The trial of Josef Fritzl is scheduled to begin later this year in front of one of Austria’s most senior female judges, Andrea Humer, 48, who is considered to be an expert in sex crimes. However, under Austrian law, Elisabeth is being questioned by the investigative judge Christoph Bauer, and not the trial judge Andrea Humer. Neither the contents of the questioning nor the upcoming trial will be open to the public.

The actual questioning of Elisabeth is taking place in two separate rooms of the same building via a video link up. In one room will be Elisabeth and her lawyer Eva Plaz, along with judge Christoph Bauer. In the other room will be state prosecutor Christiane Burkheiser and Josef Fritzl’s lawyer Rudolf Mayer. Defense lawyer Rudolf Mayer is allowed to ask questions, but his client, Josef Fritzl, who is also entitled to attend, has waived his right to be there. Rudolf Mayer, said: “My client will definitely not attend the questioning.” Elisabeth’s two oldest children, who spent their entire lives in the cellar, Kerstin, 19, and Stefan,18, will also be questioned by the court as soon as doctors give their approval. Josef Fritzl’s wife Rosemarie, 68, is also expected to be questioned.

In what may be a surprising development, it turns out that Austrian law, does not allow for cumulative convictions. This means that even if Josef Fritzl is convicted of multiple crimes he will only effectively serve one punishment, for the offense that carries the longest prison sentence.

Fritzl is facing potential charges of manslaughter for the newborn that died, as well as rape, coercion, deprivation of freedom and incest. But prosecutors told The Times that since the baby died in 1997, the manslaughter charges would be “extremely difficult” to prove. Even the rape charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, could be impossible to probe because of a lack of forensic evidence.

What this means is that the only charge that is certain to be proved in court is deprivation of freedom, a crime that can only be punished with ten years in prison under Austrian law. Josef Fritzl could be a free man after only 10 years in prison.

However, here’s the irony in the situation….. Josef Fritzl, who incarcerated his own daughter in a windowless dungeon for 24 years, has admitted that he can’t stand being locked up after only two months in prison. In spite of his fear of being beaten up or killed by other inmates, who routinely target child sex offenders, Josef has demanded his right to 30 minutes exercise outside every day. At night fellow inmates bang on the walls and shout: “Come on out Satan, we want to play.”

Fritzl, who remains held in pretrial detention in St. Poelten, about 50 miles west of Vienna, now has half-hour walks, protected from other inmates by a close guard of prison officers. Fritzl even told prison guards he enjoyed having the sun on his face during his walks.

“Mr Fritzl is accommodated in a cell for two and recently he has made use of his right to go outside for half an hour per day,” the Telegraph quoted prison spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Erich Huber-Guensthofer, as saying.

A source is quoted as saying: “He usually sits there watching television all day, especially news programs about him. He’s terrified that someone will attack him or try to kill him.”

In encouraging news about the Fritzl family; Lisa, 15, one of Elisabeth’s daughters, was sneaked out of the compound where the family has been staying to attend a summer camp. It is reported that the girl enjoyed four carefree days of outdoor fun under an assumed name with 4,000 other young campers. Armin Blutsch, who commands Amstetten’s fire brigade, and Hans-Heinz Lenze, a local official, said camp organizers took it upon themselves to include her after she said it was her “ardent desire.”

Other family members also have ventured, always in disguise, from the Amstetten-Mauer psychiatric clinic where they have been recovering to make day trips, including swimming outings. The clinic however remains under police guard to shut out the paparazzi who have laid siege to the building in an effort to photograph Elisabeth and her children.

“Fortunately, everything is going very well,” said Christoph Herbst, a lawyer representing the victims. He said they were spending some time each day trying to answer the hundreds of letters sent by well-wishers from around the world.

For the complete story of Elisabeth Fritzl and her ordeal at the hands of her father click the following link for a 5-part video presentation of The Josef Fritzl Story.

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